First Year Biology Modules

Although it seems like an eon ago, it was only last year that I was a first year. Back then, I was undertaking BSc Biology rather than BSc Genetics. I thought I wanted to keep my options open and get a degree in straight biology, but after getting a feel for the course and seeing what modules were available to me for second and third year, I opted to specialise.

Currently, the Biology department run a common first year – meaning that no matter what branch of biology your degree is in, you will be doing the same stuff in first year as everyone else. This was very helpful for me, as it gave me the time I needed to test the waters and decide upon my specialisation.

Ecology in my first year involved a lot of plant-based fieldwork, we visited Limestone pavements and Ruff wood to take quadrat readings and other observations such as with invertebrates. The assessments for this module for me were a data retrieval exam, and an assignment to produce a dichotomous key for the woody species of Ruff wood – which has been one of my favourite assignments so far.

Biodiversity was probably my favourite year one module, getting to learn about the wide range of organisms on the planet, and how they’re classified in taxonomy. From animals we’re widely aware of, like chordates such as birds, fish and mammals, to ones you may know less about, like cnidarians like jellyfish and corals. Also covered was the complex evolutionary history of plants, the origin of life itself, and the diversity of fungus. This modules was assessed by form of examination and presentation.

Biology in Practice was the module that hosted the trip to Cyprus which featured many fieldwork activities. All this fieldwork ended with two presentations that gave a good insight to the kind of presentations I’ve been doing in second year and will do in third year. The whole trip was incredible, and deserves a blog post of its own. Another aspect of this module was the idea of self-evaluation, as we had to write a reflective report on our time studying in first year. As well as this, we completed our first scientific report.

Cellular Form and Function was tested by means of a laboratory practical (in my case, a fluorescent gene transfer) and examination. This module focuses on the processes that occur within cells that make life possible, as well as the factors that can effect the biology of cells, and laboratory techniques used surrounding them.

Human Body Systems focuses on developing your knowledge of the structure and function of the human body and builds your understanding of the inter-relationship between the systems of the body in the context of human health and disease.” – EHU

This module’s examinations were of the open book/data retrieval kind, and also a regular closed book kind. This was the second ever data retrieval exam I had attempted and I was glad for it – it helped me improve how I handled these exams. Although not a human biologist myself, this module was certainly interesting in that it covered such a broad range of aspects of the human body and really gave a good insight into how our bodies systems come together to work and protect us from disease.

Variation, Evolution and Heredity‘s title is pretty self explanatory – we studied how variation in organisms comes to be, and how this is passed to further generations. For the assessment of this module – we wrote an essay on Darwin’s The Origin of Species, but were also tested in a regular examination also.

Overall, first year was a beneficial experience, helping me learn about the type of study I would undertake in my following year, as well as giving an insight into the topics I would study too. Of course first year (especially the cyprus trip) certainly also helped the whole year group to bond and become more familiar with one another.

Biological Applicant Day

From February to April 1st, applicant days are occurring here at EHU and you may be wondering what it’s like and how it will benefit you. Since Edge Hill University is so far away from my hometown, I could only make it to an Open Day, and not the applicant day (plus, I was already certain Edge Hill was to be my firm choice). However, I had the opportunity to work on the recent Applicant Day, both for the Money Advice Team, and the Biology Department.

First up in the day was a talk by the Money Advice Team. This covered specifically the loans, grants, and budgeting involved with university. Personally, I spoke in the presentation about budgeting at university from a student perspective, but more information was given by another team member on the intricacies of the loan system and also how the university delivers its scholarships.

After the morning finance talk, we moved onto the biological section of the day. This portion was for prospective students only (bar the department tours) and took place in the biosciences building. It started with Paul Ashton, the department head, giving an introductory talk about the biology department, its research, and staff. Whilst prospective students go off to this section of the day, parents and caregivers can attend a talk aimed specifically at them, providing more details on finance, UCAS, and accommodation.

After this, the students were split into three, based on the type of degree they have applied for. The university currently offers five undergraduate biological science degrees: BSc Biology, BSc Ecology & Conservation, BSc Human Biology, BSc Genetics, BSc Biotechnology. Those who chose either Genetics or Biotechnology did a genetics based practical, those who chose Ecology & Conservation an ecological practical, and those who chose Human Biology a human based practical. For anyone who chose straight Biology, they could pick which they preferred.

Despite my degree being in Genetics, I also have an ecological focus, so assisted another current student in supervising the prospective ecologists along with Anne Oxbrough, Reader in Ecology. After a presentation detailing the degree a bit more, and what modules and trips were available, the practical began. The ecological practical was centred around invertebrate identification, using microscopes and keys to identify specimens down to the class, if not the order.

Once the practical was over, building tours were given to anyone interested in viewing the department’s facilities, including a demonstration of the scanning electron microscope (SEM) and insectary. Also, the new Tech Hub’s top floor was available to be toured, showing the new labs that might be used primarily for biotechnology in the coming years.


On a separate note, current students may have noticed the flags up in the Hub – this is because it is Edge Hill’s first ever Pride week! Events still to come are: pride social tonight; a trans-exclusive sexual health workshop on Thursday; and a pride march around the campus on Friday, along with the showing of Rent in the Arts Centre for Free Film (and food) Friday.

nice one edge hill 👌 #prideweek

A photo posted by james 🌙 (@clokkerfoot) on Feb 6, 2017 at 1:32pm PST

Biology Lecture Structure

When I was deciding on my degree, I pretty much knew I wanted to do one in biological sciences (where I wanted to study on the other hand was something that took me a while to figure out). One thing I didn’t know until I actually started classes, was how they would be run, and what structure they would have.

So during my first and second year studying Biology at Edge Hill, all my classes have had the same overlying structure – a roughly four hour long session with a half hour break in the middle. Most of theses sessions have been lectures, so that’s what we call them. But they aren’t just one lecturer standing and speaking at you for three and a half hours straight, there is interaction, there are questions and answers and activities.

Probably around two thirds of the lectures were a typical “lecture,” with it mainly being note-taking, PowerPoints and small discussion. The remaining lectures were comprised of other activities and lab & fieldwork – which were scheduled in the same time slot for my sessions. The practicals didn’t have a separate name and time slot on my timetable, neither did field trips, also I’ve never had a seminar during my time here.

Lab work may be scheduled around the typical four hour (including a break – usually coinciding with the Hub breakfast), but fieldwork cannot be chained down to such timeframes. Transporting all the students to and from a particular area, whilst having enough time to actually carry out some work takes time – these trips were usually scheduled over the course of the whole day, from around 9am to sometime around afternoon/evening. Unless we were going across the road to Ruff Wood, that is the length of time we would spend on fieldwork. A good thing about spending the whole day on fieldwork and traveling, is that sometimes we managed to stop somewhere along the journey for food, or to enjoy the view, as some of the places we managed to go last year were quite remote.

For more information on the Department of Biology, from students’ perspective, look through the Biology category on the Inside Edge blog, or the uni’s biology page on their website.